Vol. VIII, no. ix, September 1998
On September 26-27 the Twentieth Legion will be encamped at our favorite stomping grounds along with La Belle Compagnie, our friends from the 14th century. Public hours will be something like 10 AM to 5 PM, and we’ll march around whenever anyone wants us to. Soldiers and civilians, lunch provided, camp out if you like, etc. This is a particularly good event for under-equipped recruits: come on out and we’ll put someone else’s armor on you and teach you some drill. Members of other groups, if you want to come and join the fun, just let me know. (Since interest in this event seems to be growing, next year we’ll pick our own weekend, rather than have La Belle invite us and then overwhelm them with a hundred Romans!)
Remember that 1/8" luan plywood that I ordered from Woodworld just before last month’s issue? IT STILL HASN’T COME IN YET!! Gads, I oughta plant my own luan trees... To avoid complete idleness, I did bang out a couple bosses last weekend, and learned several things. Recently I had read in a book about basic metalworking that when dishing or "sinking" metal (into a form, sandbag, etc.), one starts at the outer edge and works inwards in concentric circles. So that’s how I did several bosses. Now, I’d been having trouble with the sides of the rectangular flange of the boss "pleating" as I dished, forcing me to pound it flat every few minutes and making a real mess of what should have been smooth metal. The same thing happened with the first boss last weekend, and I was getting mad. "By Vulcan! It didn’t USE to do that!" And bing! A little light went on. When I first started making bosses, I started dishing from the CENTER and worked outwards (just like I wrote in the Handbook, right?). So I grabbed the second piece of metal, started dishing from the center, and the sides stayed straight! Moral: The right method is the one that works.
The second thing I learned is that I don’t have to anneal this bronze that I’ve got. I was able to scrounge several LARGE kickplates that were being replaced on doors where I work, and whatever alloy they may be is proving to be nice stuff. It’s about 18-guage, much redder than regular yellow brass, but definitely not straight copper. And I dished both of those bosses to an inch and a half depth in less than an hour, without annealing. That’s not supposed to be a good idea in general--that much cold working can tear the metal--but it works with this stuff!
In recent months several people have asked if there’s any evidence of Roman army tents being made out of anything other than leather. In short, No--there is plenty of archeological evidence for leather tents, references in literature to how many calf skins are needed for a tent, and the Latin equivalent of "under canvas" is subpellibus--"under hides". There’s not a hint anywhere that linen or some other textile might have been used, and it seems that leather was probably cheaper and easier to use than linen would have been at that time.
Usually the reason people bring this up is that they want to make an authentic tent, but simply can’t afford that much leather. (Hey, if old Ed hadn’t gotten the urge to buy the leather and then spend over a year stitching it, we still wouldn’t have a tent!) So the advice I’ve been giving is this: Make a canvas tent! Make it the same size and shape as a real one, and just tell your audience that the real ones were leather but you can’t afford that yet. Don’t spend any more than necessary on fabric--there’s no point in using linen since tents weren’t linen, right? My sister and I once made a big medieval tent from 12 yards of backdrop muslin (c. 8-1/2 feet wide) for about $100, and a Roman tent would use about half that much fabric. If waterproof canvas of some kind is too expensive, get a clear liquid waterproofing compound. The idea is to make a functional tent that "casts the right shadow" without blowing your budget. You all know that I NEVER advise people to use or make something that isn’t excruciatingly correct, but authentic leather tents aren’t something you can commission from your local caligae-maker, and there are times when a tent is vitally needed but a nylon dome or pop-up plastic fly just won’t do. As long as you make it clear to the public that what you have is simply a cheap working mockup, I think the authenticity gods will not object.
GRAIN OF SALT
The shadowy Dr. E passed me a brief article from the Frederick Post about some residents of a Chinese village who "have Latin physical traits and carry on cultural traditions that can be traced to ancient Rome." It explains that these people are "likely descended from a Roman expeditionary force that was sent to Central Asia and defeated in battle in 53 B.C." Here we go again, the old story that a legion's worth of Crassus' troops got moved wholesale to China. Apparently it got started when someone noticed that the ancient city of Peking was rectangular, or maybe it was a garbled account of a battle involving Chinese soldiers with javelins or short swords. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE, FOLKS! Nada. Zippo. Just because people with big noses cut up chickens or look at birds doesn't make them Romans. Heck, the Vietnamese still make fish sauce. The idea of the Lost Legion of Crassus is an amusing fairy tale, but it's so full of holes that frankly the science fiction novel that has them being carried off by aliens to fight on low-tech worlds is more plausible (Ranks of Bronze by David Drake). What's most amazing about this is that Chinese authorities have been frantically working to cover up or discredit the remains of a substantial Caucasian culture that existed in China long before the Romans could have gotten there, to the point of faking graves. Perhaps that lost culture is the real origin of the Chinese "Romans".
September 26-27--Leg. XX encamped at Marietta Mansion with La Belle Compagnie (14th cent.).
November--Legio III Gallica appearing at Destrehan Plantation, New Orleans. Legio XX has been invited. Road trip?
December--Probably Bethlehem Market Place show at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Silver Spring, MD.
March 1999--Military Through the Ages, Jamestown, VA. Despite my whining about the lousy weather, people seem to want to go to this again...
April 1999--Marching Through Time, Marietta Mansion.
June? 1999--Roman Days. There was at least one suggestion that we move this to October, but I LIKE it hot!
ALERT--Your beloved Quintus has just gotten nailed for jury duty in the Maryland District Court. I'll be on call for a month sometime between October 5 and December 31, and there's at least one 6-week trial scheduled for that period. The upshot is that I may "disappear" for a while, and I may even be forced to skip an issue of Adlocvtio! I should still be reachable by phone in the evenings, but I'll probably be out of touch with my computer at work.
Be that as it may, ADLOCVTIO is still the official monthly newsletter of the Twentieth Legion, edited by Matthew "Quintus" Amt. The Legion web page: http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/3761/index.htm
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